The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine

 

Mystery

The blood doctor The Blood DoctorBarbara Vine; Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 2003WorldCat

Martin Nanther is a biography author and is a hereditary peer serving in the House of Lords in 1999. The House of Lords is about to change its membership so that all hereditary peers like himself will lose their seats. He is starting the research for a new book. His subject is his great-grandfather, Henry Nanther. Henry Nanther was Queen Victoria’s doctor for her hemophiliac children. She eventually made him a baronet, thus starting the lordship that Martin now holds.

Martin is married for his second time and is happy with his wife Jude except for one major problem. She wants children but keeps miscarrying. He has one grown son from his first marriage. He and Paul are often at odds but still see each other.

Henry didn’t marry until he was older. He was very busy being a doctor for the queen and studying blood diseases. He even wrote several books on the subject that were groundbreaking. He had a good friend die in a train accident. His first fiancee was murdered. His personal papers that are left behind are factual with little personality.

Martin has those papers, Henry’s personal calendars and some family history. He needs to dig to find more about Henry’s life. He meets cousins and relatives he knows little (or nothing) about. Slowly he digs into Henry’s life. There is much hidden from 100 years earlier. At the same time the House of Lords is going through its changes and Martin’s job is disappearing.

The Blood Doctor isn’t a conventional suspense or mystery novel. There are no murders or bodies. No one’s life is is imminent danger. There is the current unrest and shift in Martin’s personal life and business life. There is a lot of mysteries surrounding Henry that Martin keeps trying to uncover. Instead Barbara Vine (pseudonym for Ruth Rendell) has written a psychological suspense to keep the reader involved in two stories – one from the late 1800’s and one from the turn to the Millennium as England’s government and Martin’s life go through radical changes.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. Even after the first 100 pages it couldn’t keep my attention. But my book club is reading it for May so I stuck with it. Finally it caught me in enough to keep going by 150 pages or so. Even then I probably could have given it up if it was a book I grabbed off the shelf out of interest.

I was able to figure out Henry’s mystery fairly early on (although the blurb on the book jacket gave hints to help). It was the present that kept my interest in the novel. I don’t know much about the English governmental process. I knew there is a House of Commons and a House of Lords, but little more. It was interesting to follow Martin as he described the complete change in the way members become members of the House of Lords. I also followed his home life story as he deals with his wife and as he investigates his own family’s history.

The Blood Doctor is all right. I don’t like Ruth Rendell’s edgy, dark novels. I wasn’t sure about this one. It isn’t like the others I’ve read – with no psychological chills or creepiness or murders. I was glad for that. But this isn’t one to make me want to read more of her work. The horror of the other two I’ve read is enough to keep me away.

Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations

More books by Ruth Rendell

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